best low-light compact camera...

Started Oct 13, 2010 | Discussions thread
PaulRivers Veteran Member • Posts: 7,420
Re: best low-light compact camera...

bp16 wrote:

looking for a compact camera for the girlfriend whose only use will be low-light social photographs in bars/dinners at AUTO settings. but at the same time, want something that I can play around with (being a beginner enthusiast) so i dont have to carry my GF-1 around... any good suggestions?

must have:

flash/good for low-light conditions, good auto point&shoot mode, compact, video not priority...

thinking of a canon S90 or S95, but getting mixed reviews on the low-light aspect..

lol, dude - the s95 does get mixed reviews for low light relative to much larger cameras like a dslr or micro four thirds. But that does not change that it is not possible to get better low light performance out of any other camera anywhere near it's size. (Technically the tl500's lens is 1/4th of a stop faster at wide angle, and in exchange the camera is much larger).

I ran across this picture which well illustrates the difference in size -

Here's the breakdown - I believe all these camera have full manual controls and can shoot raw.

1. The Canon s95. f2.0 lens at wide angle, no camera beats it's high iso performance (others in this category probably match it, it's a matter of some debate, just mean that they don't beat it's sensor performance).

The s95's main thing is it's size - it will fit in a jeans pocket, though it's a tad bit bulky compared to their smaller compacts.

2. The Panasonic LX5. f2.0 lens at wide angle, so for wide angle it's the same as the s95. It's main different features are it's hotshoe, and that it's lens is only f3.3 when you zoom all the way out to 90mm (an entire stop better than the s95 when zoomed in all the way), and that it's 24mm at wide angle vs 28mm with the s95.

It is, however, noticeably larger than the s95 - you would be hard pressed to carry this thing around in your jeans pocket because the fixed lens protrusion sticks out so much. I mean - it would be really uncomfortable.

3. The Samsung TL500. It's a lot like the LX5 in it's size and features. It also has an articulating screen. It's lens, as mentioned, is F1.8 at wide angle, so technically better than the s95, but only by 1/4th of a stop. It doesn't zoom as much as the LX5 and the s95, but I think it's lens has better low light values as you zoom as well. It is believed to to use the same sensor that was used in the s90.

All of the above cameras have very, very similar low light performance. And you aren't going to find anything better without going to a micro four thirds or dslr.

Let me mention another camera - the Canon s95 has a decent auto mode, but I've been told by 2 different people that have had both that the Canon sd4000's auto mode is better. It's like the s95's auto mode gets a 7/10, and the sd4000's get a 9/10. It's smaller than the s95, and it has an f2.0 (at wide angle) lens, though it's low light performance isn't quite as good. No RAW. It has partial manual controls - shutter priority and aperture priority modes - but no full manual mode, and changing settings involves diving into the menus vs the external controls the s95 has.

As I see it, you have 3 feasible options -

1. Put the pancake lens on the gf-1, realizing you're giving up any zoom, and bring it with you. It's about a stop better than the s95, but that stop is often right at the critical point of "typical indoor lighting".

2. Get an s95. The LX5 and tl500 are close in size to your gf-1 with a pancake lens. The s95 is the only camera that's substantially smaller, with the best low light performance in it's class.

3. Get an sd4000 since your girlfriend will appreciate it's auto mode, and it does have a few settings for you to tinker around with.

P.S. I would not get an s90 for someone else. It's slippery and harder to hold onto. I had it for a year - I know what I'm saying when I say the s95 is much easier to grab onto. I've also had much better luck with the flash automatically choosing the right amount of power on the s95 than I did with the s90. There's also the issue with the rear wheel changing settings accidentally on the s90 that was fixed on the s95 - more of a concern for someone who's not really into figuring out the camera and just wants it to work. Heck, I dropped $150 to upgrade (sold my s90), I think the s95 is a much less frustrating camera than the s90.

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